If you’re feasting or partying in the evenings right now, you’re probably searching for low-calorie foods to eat during the day to minimise the damage about to be inflicted or just gone…So, here are some smart choices of low calorie foods to eat when you’re hungry from nutritionist May Simpkin
If you’re feasting or partying at the moment, there’s a temptation to skip meals to undo the damage the next day. But if you’re doing that and hoping you’ll sail through your day energized, focused and without debilitating hunger pangs niggling in the background, you might want to think again.
Hunger is your body’s way of telling you your blood sugars are low and you need to eat to ensure you can fulfill your energy requirements. It sends these messages with symptoms that are hard to ignore; light headedness, dizziness, fatigue, lethargy and a general feeling of anxiousness. We all know that feeling, often described as “hangry” due to the effects it can have on behaviour.
If there’s one thing that is going to sabotage your efforts to lose weight, it’s going to be succumbing to those hunger pangs without thought and planning and reaching for the nearest unhealthy option from the vending machine. Whilst this will satiate the cravings in the short term, you’ll find yourself feeling hungry again in no time and the cycle can very easily repeat itself throughout the day, notwithstanding the excessive calorie count you’ll end up consuming.
first drink a large glass of water or a herbal tea and wait 10-15mins. Often, thirst is mistaken for hunger
Instead, reach for a healthy snack, that will still allow you to achieve your weight loss goals, but will also keep you fuller for longer and most importantly, will provide good nutrients to nourish your body and support your overall health.
To keep your appetite in check, planning is key; without the right snacks to hand, whether that’s in the fridge at home, at your desk at work or in your bag if you’re on the run, you’re more likely to reach for a high calorie unhealthy snack when hunger kicks in.
The good news is that there are plenty of great low calorie, nutrient-rich snack options you can enjoy when hunger kicks but before you reach for anything, the first thing you need to do is drink a large glass of water or a luke warm herbal tea….and wait 10-15mins. Often, thirst is mistaken for hunger and in fact, you are simply dehydrated and thirsty. This simple “rule” will help to establish if this is in fact the case.
If the hunger pangs are relentless, choosing a low calorie snack to get you through to the next meal will help you stay on track. Here are some great options:
Energy burning green vegetables
Unsurprisingly, vegetables top the list of healthy, low calorie foods to satisfy cravings. Vegetables are high in insoluble fibre and the body will need more energy to process these indigestible compounds and you’ll therefore burn more calories simply by eating vegetables. Try a salad of lightly steamed broccoli, asparagus, or cauliflower with a lemon vinaigrette or kale chips, preferably homemade. Cruditées, such as carrots, celery and cucumber sticks with a large tablespoon of homemade hummous or yoghurt/herb dip, for example, is also a good choice. I like Rawlicious Double Pepper Twist Kale Chips £2.49 from Healthista Shop.
Sugar boost fruits
if you’re feeling really hungry your blood sugar may have dropped dramatically and it is important to replenish sugar. Fruits in particular will provide the sugar boost you are craving. However, fruits also contain high fibre, which will help to release the sugars more slowly, thus avoiding the sugar surges and the inevitable dips that follow. Certain fruits, like pears, bananas and grapes are high in sugar and therefore high in calories. It is important to choose the varieties carefully; apples and citrus fruits will provide a sugar hit whilst still being low in calories.
A first class protein and low in calories, eggs are the ideal food to satiate cravings and help you to feel fuller for longer whilst also providing plenty of other essential nutrients. Boiled eggs are an ideal snack to eat on-the-go (do warn colleagues at work about the smell though) along with some crudité vegetables like peppers, cherry tomatoes or carrot sticks. If you have time to prep ahead, consider making some homemade vegetable muffins with eggs, spinach, red peppers and feta cheese for example or try making these flourless sweet potato frittata muffins for a delicious satisfying snack on the go, but take care to avoid making them too large.
Soups and broths
Eating soup is an ideal way of re-hydrating whilst increasing your nutrient intake. Broth-based or clear consommé soups, particularly if loaded with plenty of fibre-rich vegetables will fill you up without consuming too many calories. Homemade is ideal but when choosing shop-bought varieties, be careful to read the ingredients list to ensure low sugar levels, either as added sugar or from too many starchy vegetables which will bump up the calorie count. Miso souped sachets are one of the quickest and easiest warming low-calorie snacks you can get and can really satisfy you between meals. Try a sachet of Clearspring Organic White Miso Soup Paste £2.49 from Healthista Shop mixed with boiling water.
As a high fibre grain, porridge oats, made with water or semi-skimmed milk are a deliciously satisfying snack. Adding a generous sprinkle of cinnamon will mimic the sweetness of sugar without the calories and research shows may also optimize insulin function and stabilise blood sugar fluctuations, helping stop you craving sweets between meals.
Greek yoghurt, unlike “Greek-Style” yoghurt, has been strained to retain significantly higher protein than regular yoghurt. As such, eating a portion or 2-3 tablespoons will contain good protein and will therefore fill you up without consuming too many calories. Topping the yoghurt with low sugar fruits such as raspberries and strawberries will provide additional fibre and nutrients whilst keeping the calorie count down.
Homemade sweet treats
Making our own sweet treats allows you to control the ingredients and avoid too much sugar, which would otherwise load your calorie intake. Shop bought so-called ‘healthy energy bars’ are little more than glorified sweets and should be avoided altogether. They tend to be loaded with sugar, in varying and confusing forms and as a result, will be high in calories.
Try these nutrient dense homemade bliss balls, and make them into small 25 gram balls to keep the calorie count a little lower. Packed with oats, nuts, dates, chia seeds and coconut oil, these will not only satiate but will also provide valuable nutrients.
Alternatively, these easy gluten-free banana and raspberry oat muffins are naturally sweetened and perfect to make in advance to grab for the day ahead.
Smoothies made with whole fruits and vegetables can be an ideal nutrient rich snack or low calorie meal replacement. Be careful to include a ratio of 3 vegetables to 1 fruit, to avoid too much sugar and use ice or skimmed milk to provide more water and therefore less calories. For example, spinach/kale, apple and cucumber with lime and ginger will provide plenty of fibre with very few calories. If you’re looking for a longer lasting smoothie, you can include a scoop of protein powder such as Healthista’s Lean Vegan Diet Protein (I like vanilla flavour – £24.95 from Healthista shop and Wholefoods) and unsweetened almond milk to your favourite fruit/vegetable combination.
Fruit and nut butter
Apples skins contain pectin, which naturally slows down digestion and more satiating as a result. Eating a whole apple without peeling also takes longer to eat and therefore allows time for the message to reach the brain to register fullness. Apple slices, thinly spread with a good quality nut butter such as Biona Crunchy Organic Peanut Butter (£4.39 from Healthista Shop) are also a delicious and simple low calorie snack to put together. Combining the protein and healthy fats from the nut butter with the sweetness and fibre from the apple will provide that sugar boost you’re craving when hungry, but will keep you fuller for longer.
Popcorn has risen in popularity recently and with that manufacturers have responded with an array of flavourings and varieties to tempt us into buying them. Often considered “guilt-free”, it is important to be wary of these alternatives that can be loaded with salt, sugar and fat and as a result also loaded with calories. Popcorn in it’s original and basic form is indeed a nutritious snack and as it’s a whole grain food that is high in fibre, kernels which are air-popped and eaten plain without sugar or added butter or oil will take up more space in your stomach, providing satiety, whilst being a low calorie snack. Making popcorn at home without oil or butter is very easy and allows you to control the additives to ensure you’re eating a low calorie version. Try flavouring with a little sea-salt, cinnamon or herbs for a delicious alternative. With shop-bought versions, look for air-popped choices in bags of around 30g, which do not contain butter or sugar. Many varieties unfortunately will be loaded and therefore best avoided.
Rice cakes with nut butter
Whilst rice cakes on their own are indeed low in calories, they are unlikely to satisfy hunger cravings. However, adding a healthy topping to provide more nutrients and texture will satisfy without eating too many calories. Try the following suggestions:
- 1 level teaspoon of good quality nut butter
- A thin slice of good quality ham or turkey with a handful of cherry tomatoes and a chunk of cucumber
- A teaspoon of cream cheese (not low fat) with a little marmite and cucumber and 2 or 3 radishes on the side
- 2 or 3 slices of banana, mashed and sprinkled with cinnamon
May Simpkin is a UK registered practitioner with a Masters Science degree in Personalised Nutrition. She is an experienced clinician, practicing functional medicine from an evidence base, providing the latest research into nutrition. She is bound by the code of ethics in clinical practice and has met the strict criteria required for BANT, the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy and the CNHC, Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council, which is the council recommended by the UK Department of Health for complementary and natural healthcare services. She is also Chair of the Continual Professional Committee at BANT. In addition, she is registered with IFM, The Institute for Functional Medicine and a member of the RSM, The Royal Society of Medicine.
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